In a very close vote, the Swiss House of Representatives has weighed in on a future nationwide vote on banning paedophiles from working with children, recommending that voters not support the initiative and back a counter-proposal instead.
The initiative, brought by the Marche Blanche (White March) group, would amend the Swiss constitution to ensure that “persons who are convicted because they have affected the sexual integrity of a child or a dependent person permanently lose the right to pursue a professional or volunteer activity with minors or dependents.”
Critics of the amendment say its wording is too strict and disproportionate and that a revision to the penal code, as set forth in the counter-proposal suggested by cabinet, makes more sense.
The counter-proposal’s text seeks to forbid convicted paedophiles from participating not only in certain child-related activities in the workplace but also from taking part in sporting clubs or groups where children are involved. It also forbids abusers from contacting victims and allows a judge to declare certain public places off-limits to convicted paedophiles.
House president Maya Graf’s vote tipped the balance to make the count 89 against supporting the initiative and 88 for it. The right-wing Swiss People’s party and centre-right Conservative Democratic Party were the main supporters of the initiative, while the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the Green Party came out against it.
The Senate also decided not to back the initiative, proposing instead a more flexible version that would give judges the ability to decide how long to ban a paedophile from working with children. However, the House decided not to back the Senate’s revision, choosing instead to recommend the aforementioned counter-proposal.
No date has been set for a nationwide vote on the initiative. Parliament and the cabinet’s recommendations on the matter will be included in information to voters and are likely to play a role in the outcome. Voters will have the chance to decide on the initiative as well as on whether to back any included counter-proposals.
swissinfo.ch and agencies